Good News? Bad News? Confuse?


by Emil Morhardt

Woodard et al. (2019) have calculated that climate change is sufficiently disruptive of the global economy that it will lower carbon dioxide output significantly going forward.  In other words, no matter what we do about the Paris Climate Agreement, CO2 levels from burning fossil fuels are likely to fall.  This might be viewed as good news…it ought to offset the existing high levels of CO2 in the atmosphere and at least stabilize things, never mind that the economy (and therefore, we) will suffer.  Not so fast. The other thing that climate change is doing is heating up the oceans which reduces their ability to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere; this and other natural climate sinks are failing, so even with reduced human CO2 production, atmospheric levels are still going to rise.  Plus the global economy is going to sink. This latter fact suggests that we’ll have fewer economic resources (money) to spend on adapting to the adverse effects of climate change.  We know what these are: wealth inequality, crop failures, coastal flooding, etc.

I guess it’s bad news all around.

Woodard DLDavis SJRanderson JT (2019) Economic carbon cycle feedbacks may offset additional warming from natural feedbacks. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 116:759764.